Monday, December 14, 2015

Similar narratives, different conclusions

Sarah Ditum and Laurie Penny share similar -- and altogether too common --  stories of feeling unhappy and alienated by femininity and womanhood, but reach different conclusions about their own identity:

I didn’t have a blind spot about gender. I had a sore spot. The body that I was developing horrified and distressed me. I worried about my tits and pubes failing to arrive promptly, then I worried about the exposing conspicuousness of their having arrived. I desperately wanted the confirmation of normality that my period would bring, then I felt ashamed of the bloody mess and the internal churning. I got stretch marks on my thighs and bum and breasts, and it never occurred to me that a stretch-marked body could be other than repulsive. I felt decisively fat, and I did things intended to atone for that perceived fatness that were both unpleasant and unhealthy. I shaved my legs with a savagery that left me scarred on shins and ankles.
I was anorexic for large parts of my childhood and for many complex, painful, altogether common reasons, of which gender dysphoria was just one. I felt trapped by the femaleness of my body, by my growing breasts and curves. Not eating made my periods stop. It made my breasts disappear. On the downside, it also turned me into a manic, suicidal mess, forced me to drop out of school, and traumatized my entire family.
Sarah rejects the "cis" label, but acknowledges biological sex as a real thing, while Laurie is "genderqueer," something based purely on subjective feelings of identity. Not that "feelings" aren't valid, but as parameters of trans is widen, pretty much anyone can claim to identify as anything. And we're never allowed to question it. Ever. By questioning this cis label, but not placing herself under the trans umbrella, Sarah's post is transphobic.*

I would hazard to guess most woman are "genderqueer" in some way or another. But not claiming it as a label, aka defaulting to "cis" even if you reject identifying along gendered lines at all, implies some sort of acceptance. I'm not comfortable with that at all, but I loathe the word "genderqueer," in no small way because I'm old enough to know queer as a slur. That it's become increasingly common, particularly among younger women, to label themselves as something other than "woman" is a trend worth dismantling. In lieu freedom to be whomever we want, we're creating tinier and tinier boxes.

*Ditum has been accused of transphobia for more than a single post, and it's a good bet that the "not cis" one was just throwing gas on the fire, but I find it greatly disturbing when ideas are deemed so problematic they can't even be tabled. Hence the trend of "no platforming."